It was her husband’s birthday, yet it was she who felt older somehow. She looked at the sink full of dishes, clothes that either needed to be washed, ironed or folded; mixed together in a sickening mound of natural and man made fibres. But first – dinner. The fridge was almost empty. A gnarled radish sat forlorn in the corner. Potatoes past their shelf life let out a faint, radio active green gleam. ‘Beggars can’t be choosers’ she thought, hating herself immediately for the cliché.
Maybe she wouldn’t cook tonight she thought. But as she rifled through the take away menus, a wave of guilt flooded her. No she would cook herself, hoping the action would help her gain acceptance in the eyes of all those wives before her. Women who had set the bar far too high for her petite 5 foot 2 frame.
Proceedings were slow in the kitchen that night. The radioactive potatoes began to look like nuclear waste as they boiled, and her recalcitrant pressure cooker refused to open. After an hour of simmering and sautéing, she settled down in front of the tv, meal on lap, channel tuned to a hindi serial. She had gotten used to eating with the cast of weeping bahus and tyrannical saasu-mas.
Meal and melodrama over, she looked with dread at kitchen sink. ‘I’ll do it tomorrow she thought. Who says they have to be done tonight?’ She waited a moment, almost expecting a benign spirit to pop through the woodwork and state that one of the tenets of being a good housewife washing the vessels every night.
She trudged upstairs to fold and hang the clothes up to dry. She looked at the guest room bed, and could hardly make out the silk duvet under all the clothes. As she sat folding and sorting them out, she felt that first ominous pang of emotion. She was going to cry. She swallowed the lump in her throat and began hanging the clothes out to dry on the radiator. She felt the first tear roll down her throat and knew it was useless holding the others back. She sat on the edge of the bed, the damp baniyan in her hand and sobbed. She didn’t know how long she sat there like that, crying and wiping the tears away with a freshly laundered sock.
The feelings subsided. She washed her face, brushed her teeth and oiled her hair. Tucking the unnamed emotions away as one would an errant strand of hair.